What is the Portal from Facebook and should you get one?

27th November 2018

Facebook has brought out a new tablet smart device called the Portal which allows you to seamlessly video call friends and family.

You can either opt for the original Portal or the Portal+ dependent on what you want to use the device for. Both allow you to video call loved ones hands-free as the smart camera will follow you around the room and ensure that everyone is always in the frame during a call, meaning you don’t have to carry anything around with you or stop what you are doing to make a call. The smart microphone will amplify the user’s voice and minimise any unwanted background noise no matter where the person is in the room.

If you’re a fan of the latest AI assistants, you’ll be pleased to know that Alexa by Amazon is built into the Portal so you can ask questions, control your smart home and more without the need for multiple devices. Music lovers can also benefit from the Portal, particularly the plus model, as it doubles up as a smart speaker, linking to partners such as Spotify and iHeart Radio with a scope to add more in the future.

The main purpose of the Portal is for video calling and Facebook want to make it easy and interactive, your friends do not need to own a Portal of their own, you can simply call them through Facebook Messenger straight to their smartphone or tablet and you can add up to six others into a group phone call. You can use the Story Time feature to truly immerse yourself into character for the kids or listen to music together without any delays as if you were in the same room.

With the rise of new smart devices the main issue we face is privacy and security, especially with recent Facebook data scandals, however, Facebook has assured us that “Portal was created with privacy, safety and security in mind. And it has clear and simple settings, so you always stay in control.”

The Portal has the option to turn the camera and microphone off with a single tap and they cannot be turned on again until the button has been pressed again manually, a red light will appear next to the lens when the camera and microphone are switched off so you know. This isn’t always practical, so the device also comes with a specific camera cover that you can place over the lens when you don’t want the camera to see you but you still want to use voice commands and receive incoming calls. For security purposes within the home, you can create a passcode with 4-12 digits which keeps the screen locked and can only be changed with your Facebook password.

Other things Facebook has promised of the Portal, is that all calls are secure and Facebook does not listen to, view or keep the content of your video calls and voice commands are only enabled after saying “Hey Portal” and the history can be deleted in your Facebook Activity Log. They have also stated that the “Smart Camera uses AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. Portal’s camera does not use facial recognition and does not identify who you are.”

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